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The House of Gaunt

- Chapter 10

"This time, you enter the Pensieve with me ... and, even more unusually, with permission."
-- Albus Dumbledore

HBP10: The House of Gaunt

Harry attends his first lesson with Dumbledore, who explains that they will be delving into Voldemort’s past and takes Harry into the Pensieve. In Bob Ogden’s memory, they go to Marvolo Gaunt’s house to see about his son, Morfin, who has broken wizarding law by attacking a muggle; there they see a mean, impoverished, racist Marvolo abusing his daughter Merope, who is watching muggle Tom Riddle. Dumbledore explains that Merope later used a love potion on Tom. Merope and Tom marry, but when Merope stops giving him the love potion, he leaves her,┬ádespite the fact that she is pregnant.

Calendar and Dates

The entire chapter takes place on Saturday of the first week of classes, which for reasons described in HBP8 we know began on Sunday, 1 September. Therefore, it must be 7 September, though of course the memory Harry and Dumbledore visit in the Pensieve takes place many decades earlier.

Interesting facts and notes

she shuffled a pack of dirty-looking playing cards, reading them as she walked

From Trelawney's comments, at first these appear to be ordinary playing cards rather than Tarot cards. Yes, people do sometimes use ordinary playing cards for that sort of thing, but Trelawney's later references to "The Lightning-Struck Tower" indicate that sometimes, at least, she uses a Tarot deck instead.

A Tarot deck is somewhat similiar to a deck of ordinary playing cards, but divides into two groups of cards:

  • the Minor Arcana
    Correspond to the four suits of an ordinary deck but with different names for the suits (e.g. pentacles instead of diamonds) and different images on them (what, exactly, depends on which variety of Tarot deck you're using; Waite-Ryder is the most common but by no means the only one).
  • the Major Arcana
    These are 22 special cards with extra significance, such as the Tower, Death, the Hanged Man (yes, I know about the pub in GF1), and so on.

From the names of the cards used here (those of an ordinary deck of playing cards, without the Major Arcana of the Tarot), Trelawney is not playing with a full deck.

Chapter title - any possible reference to John of Gaunt, Henry IV's father? The chapter title has at least two meanings - it introduces us to the setting of the house of the Gaunt family, and to the members of that family. The word "gaunt" means emaciated or haggard looking, which describes the appearance of each of the family members.

Memorable lines

"From here on in, Harry, I may be as woefully wrong as Humphrey Belcher, who believed the time was ripe for a cheese cauldron."

Words and phrases

Characters Introduced

HBP 10 — The House of Gaunt
Abbreviation HBP10: The House of Gaunt
Canonicity Primary Canon


This is the first opportunity for readers to get a glimpse into Tom Riddle's childhood. We, and Harry, get to see how and why Tom grows to be Voldemort. He was conceived because of a love potion, which means that he doesn't have the capacity to love. With each lesson from Dumbledore, the readers, along with Harry, better understand Voldemort and we even feel sympathy for him. We see him abandoned by his father before his birth, his mother's death and his entrance into life at the orphanage. - C.M.

Pensieve (Comments)

Tags: anger attacks blood cards dark duelling family fear green imprisoned prejudice pride protection purity suppression weak Wizarding laws

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The Harry Potter Canon